The government went into a counter-offensive against the BJP on the allocation of coal blocks on Wednesday, with rural development minister Jairam Ramesh asking whether or not the CAG had found the Chhattisgarh government responsible for causing a loss of Rs. 1000 crore to the exchequer through the allotment of a coal block to a businessman considered close to party president Nitin Gadkari.
"Is it not true that the CAG has indicted a BJP-ruled state government — Chhattisgarh — for causing loss of over Rs. 1000 crore to the state exchequer by handing over a coal block originally allocated to the Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corporation to a BJP Rajya Sabha MP — Ajay Sancheti — who is a close associate of BJP president Nitin Gadkari?" Ramesh asked.
The BJP was quick to retort that the Chhattisgarh case was "different" from the allocations done by the Centre. BJP chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said Sancheti's SMS Infrastructure had bid for the commercial use of Bhatgaon II Extension, and was duly awarded the 32-year lease as the successful bidder. He added that Sancheti was not a Rajya Sabha member of the BJP at that time and Gadkari wasn't the party president either.
The CAG had pointed to a loss of Rs. 1052.2 crore to the exchequer, saying the Bhatgaon II Extension bid — in which only SMS Infrastructure was found technically eligible — fetched only R129.6 per metric tonne, much below Bhatgaon II, another coal block that fetched 552 per metric tonne. It also faulted states for not inviting fresh tenders.
Ramesh said any action on the allocations made (by the Centre) would be done after the report of the inter-ministerial group on coal allocations.